My husband’s boat is in preparation for deployment. A long one. For a submarine, that will mean several long months. I know many families of other branches may think sub deployments are short, but keep in mind that most of that time, our sailors are in a steel tube with no windows and no access to the “outside world.” I emphasize outside world that way because I’ve heard tell of sailors on big ships getting Facebook and Skype access or even *gasp* being able to see where they are in the ocean.
This will be my first deployment as a Navy submarine spouse. My dad was deployed with the Marine Corps when I was a teenager, and while I missed him, life at home never changed that much for me. I feel it is a much bigger deal for me to be handling this as an adult and wife and mom. My daughter is 9 months old (ish) right now and will be a year (or more or less-ish) when they depart and it will be my job to hold everything together at home until my Sir returns. The thing is though, I don’t know if I will ever feel ready and confident and capable.
When I married my Sir, I knew deployments were going to happen to us. So I talked to other spouses and soaked in the stories and experiences they related. I felt like if I learned from them, maybe when my time came to handle it, I’d have something in my corner to draw from. And it isn’t like my hubs hasn’t been underway for a time. The most he’s been gone from me though is about 2 months. So. What am I doing to make sure I’m prepared?
I’m in the middle of making “Open When…” cards for him to take with him. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re cards that your Sir can open on certain days. They can be holidays (‘Open on Father’s Day,’ ‘Open on Christmas’) or other serious or nonsensical days (‘Open when you miss me,’ ‘Open when you are on your way home,’ ‘Open when you’re in the mood for sushi.’) And I’m making plans for what I’ll send in his halfway box. A halfway box is something the sailors get to open on their Halfway Night (a night they celebrate as being roughly the midway point through their deployment.) Because it is a submarine, you can’t just mail things to them. So we make them before they leave, and they store them on board until the time comes to open them.
We are also making plans for what I’ll need to take care of everything while he’s gone. This means Power of Attorney documents (for everything under the sun apparently) and wills. We’ve named a guardian for our daughter just in case something happens to me while he’s gone and made sure my name is on all the big financial things. Every family does things differently but I will be the only one making decisions for every eventuality while he’s gone, so it makes sense for us to have my contact info and name on all the things.
But I’m also trying to make plans to keep busy while the weeks and months go by. I joined a recreation center with a gym and pool and I plan to teach my daughter to swim. I joined a MOMS Club in my area so I can make new friends and stay busy with them. I also joined a direct sales business, Jamberry, so I can stay busy but make a little extra money. My sister-in-law moved off island (and I’m sad!) but my sister will move here soon and is due to have her baby in a few months, so I’ll have family nearby. My daughter is getting old enough that soon we can have playground days and outings to the zoo and aquarium too. I’m determined to make it through.
Sooner or later, most military spouses will be faced with the daunting prospect of their husband deploying. Most of us knew that before we married our partners. And that’s why it is so daunting. These are our partners. For the length of the deployment, we have to go on without their help, guidance, love, and support. For submarine spouses, we have to go without communication for most of that time too. I am intimidated by that. I admit it. I look around and feel like all the other wives I meet are handling things better than I am.
Maybe that’s just it though. We’re all looking around at each other and smiling on the outside but crumbling on the inside. I’m probably not the only one on this boat feeling this way, and we still have some time before they actually leave. When my daughter cries, I have to be strong for her, so I wipe away the tears and go on about my day. Because I’m all she has. Because maybe if I pretend I’m OK, my day will get better. Because she makes me happy when she smiles.
I’ll be honest. I’m counting down the days until this tour is over for us. Maybe I won’t ever feel ready and confident and capable. But I’ll go on just the same.